Finally, the US cannot count on its allies to help with the heavy lifting. In Libya, it was relatively easy to bomb Muammar Qaddafi’s armies as they advanced through open spaces. By contrast, bombing Damascus — which remains a densely populated city, despite the flight of refugees — would undoubtedly kill a significant number of Syrian civilians.
As in the Balkans a generation ago, when Western leaders moved to end the bloodiest European conflict since World War II, the French are ready to send planes and pilots to Syria. However, Britain is speaking with more than one voice on the issue. Moreover, most of Europe’s leaders are preoccupied with the domestic fallout of the eurozone’s ongoing struggles. In Germany, for example, Chancellor Angela Merkel will avoid unnecessary risks ahead of the upcoming general election.
Likewise, Arab leaders — mindful of the turmoil in Egypt, rising violence in Iraq and Libya, and the threat of social unrest within their own countries — will not openly invite Western powers to bomb a Muslim country. Even Canada will sit this one out.
This G-Zero problem will not last forever. Eventually, the political wildfires that are allowed to burn out of control will threaten enough powerful countries to force a certain level of cooperation. Unfortunately for Syrians, their suffering alone will not be enough.
Ian Bremmer is president of the Eurasia Group.
Copyright: Project Syndicate